Is digital banking, digital transformation of banking? Here’s what SBI CTO Shiv Kumar Bhasin has to say
A key tenet of digital transformation is the understanding that digital strategy no longer plays a supporting role for business strategy.
India, with its 462 million internet users and close to 300 million smartphone users, is representing a digital economy which has arguably the greatest market potential for digital transformation. Similarly 1.75 billion mobile phone users across the word will have used their devices for banking purposes by the end of 2019, compared to 800 million this year. 1.75 billion mobile banking users means that almost 32% of the global adult population in 2019 will be mobile banking users. Future belongs, not to plastic cards, but to mobile phones. Keep in mind that financial technology is a commodity. Anyone can acquire new technology. The true differentiators in financial services will come from having the vision and ability to execute change in this new landscape. Financial institutions need more technically adept, visionary talent if they are to survive the shift to the digital age and take the kind of risks necessary for long-term success. The financial services industry is still in the early stages of digital transformation. Some organizations have been quicker to embrace this shift, while others remain firmly entrenched in industrial age mindsets. Some of them have increasingly defined themselves as a technology company rather than a financial services firm. Some of them are emerging as one of the most high-profile advocates of cryptocurrencies, it’s clear that the banks are thinking in longer term horizons than quarter to quarter or year to year. Bank’s technology leaders must change the working culture to carry employees through the digital revolution. Innovation agenda can’t be forced by setting up innovation departments, innovation center or customer experience centers. These will not spur the digital attitude of the employees, they need to be provided tools to inculcate digital thinking in everything they do. Do they empathies with customers? Do they think about customer journey irrespective of touch point of Bank with Customer? Innovation is a result of clear vision for the future of banking, an articulated pathway to the future and the necessary foundational infrastructure to get there, resulting in applications that can be built on the foundation. Beyond simply nodding to the need for greater innovation, banks simply have to begin to take a series of bold, decisive steps that are a typical of financial services firms companies. Elevating a former CIO to CFO, if bank calls itself a technology company rather than a financial services firm. For emerging as one of the most high-profile advocates of cryptocurrencies (true digital transformer), it’s clear that the company is thinking in longer time horizons than quarter to quarter or year to year. Innovation in financial services will happen in part through the diffusion of new revenue models and technologies, combining entrepreneurial ideas with institutional and operational expertise. What’s needed is a concerted effort to invest in design thinking systems, and support for diverse and inclusive cultures that bring together people with divergent perspectives to share ideas and new approaches.
A key tenet of digital transformation is the understanding that digital strategy no longer plays a supporting role for business strategy. It is given first consideration, which determines other elements of the broader business plan. Without building on the basis of a digital operating model, there is no way to ensure alignment among a company’s digital initiatives. This is why so many digital transformation initiatives don’t live up to expectations, or even fail altogether. Pursuing a mobile app here or a big data program there is not establishing the core digital strategy on which to build the future business. It’s time to think of business strategies for a digital world — rather than thinking of a stand-alone “digital” strategy. Banks are building digitally-enabled business processes, replacing the existing workflows, which have been overlaid by successive waves of technology. This digitization is creating an entirely new way of working. However, they can’t be developed in isolation. Banks planning for a future beyond the next few years need to take stock of their transformational strengths and weaknesses. Wholesale transformation will be needed to streamline operations, to develop new businesses that serve new customer needs, and to shed those businesses that no longer meet the growth objectives — even businesses that were once considered core. Transformation on this scale can be a long process. It will involve many challenges. But the opportunities it offers are unprecedented. The wins enjoyed will be significant. And no enterprise needs to take on all these challenges alone
– By Shiv Kumar Bhasin
Shiv Kumar Bhasin is Chief Technology Officer at State Bank of India.